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Cellular ‘shipping’ wins Nobel Prize

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Three scientists have won the Nobel Prize for medicine or physiology after discovering how cells precisely transport material.

James Rothman and Randy Schekman, both from the US, and Thomas Sudhof, from Germany, shared the prize.

They found the way “vesicles” act like a fleet of ships transporting their goods to the exact destination.

It is crucial for the way the brain communicates, the release of hormones and parts of the immune system.

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My first reaction was ‘Oh, my God! That was also my second reaction”

Prof Randy Schekman Nobel Prize Winner

The billions of cells which make up the body are not empty blobs, instead they are packed with precise machinery. In order for a cell to function properly it needs the right materials in the right place at the right time.

Vesicles are tiny bubbles of fat which act as the cell’s internal shipping service. They can send material such as enzymes, neurotransmitters and hormones, around the cell. Or they can fuse with the outer surface of the cell and release their contents into the wider body.

The prize committee said the findings: “Had a major impact on our understanding of how cargo is delivered with timing and precision within and outside the cell.

“Without this wonderfully precise organisation, the cell would lapse into chaos.”

A defective vesicle transport system is implicated in diabetes and brain disorders.

Read the full story on The BBC’s website here